Cabin Fever

We’ve had a good bit of very cold weather recently, so our dogs act as if they’ve been on a 4-day “down stay.” There’s no way to count how many times I’ve said “go lie down!” at dogs nagging me for breakfast, for dinner, for family walks in the woods, for cuddle-time on my lap. They’re restless and want to get outside to play.

I’d love to let them get more exercise outdoors, but we’ve got a bunch of old dogs and their arthritic old bones can’t withstand the cold and snow for very long. Just this afternoon old Birdie decided to stay overlong in the yard. He didn’t see the rest of the dogs coming in and can’t hear when I call or whistle, so I left him outside for a few minutes. Then I got involved in a phone call and, though I heard him barking, thought he’d be fine for a few minutes.

By the time I got him indoors he was shivering. We wrapped him in a sweatshirt, Bud held his feet to warm them, and I made a small bowl of hot oatmeal which he wolfed down. I’m sure he would have warmed up on his own but I can’t stand to see a little old dog shiver.

On Agiledogs list, Brenna Fender requested submissions for the USDAA website and newsletters. She was looking for training tips presented as one sentence, no more than 20 words. I sent her “Under stress, dogs will revert to conditioned¬†behaviors more reliably than they will avoid behaviors for which they’ve been punished.” It was actually a blast to come up with a training tip or philosophy and then boil it down to 20 words. A little writer-fun …

I’ve been doing remedial 2-Minute jump training with Blue, our 2-1/2-year old all american from the Marietta shelter. She’s a bit of a savant, but finding time to train her isn’t easy. As a result she’s got great contacts, good weaves, but tends to give jumps a pass unless you specifically point out the jump. She hasn’t developed the proper response to the cue “jump!”¬† (aka “how high?”)

I’ve set up a jump in our basement, just 20 feet from the other dogs’ feeding frenzy, and Blue’s been getting to do jump training for breakfast and dinner. There’s not a lot of light in the part of the basement where I’ve set up her jump, so the first few cues were met with some confusion from her as she sought out the jump. Over the last week she’s progressed nicely.

After just 4-5 days of training, I pick up her bowl and head into the jump zone, she races ahead of me taking the jump forwards, backwards, in a figure 8, doing any performance that engages with the jump for her food. What a treasure — a dog who is agile, loves food, and has made the connection between the two. It is my belief that most dogs can be taught this connection.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Blue’s jumping skills carry over into fun runs tomorrow night.

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